The following is President
Douglas J. Bennet's 174th Commencement Remarks presented during Commencement
Ceremonies May 28.
A video clip of President Bennet's speech can be found at:
Last weekend Midge and I attended a commencement at a different institution.
The graduate in question was a niece who had chosen not to attend Wesleyan
for obvious reasons. It was a glorious affair, as this commencement will be,
but it reminded us of the value of brevity…so I will be brief.
First, let me echo enthusiastically Jim Dresser and Pacho Carreno’s welcome
to you, and thanks to your families and the faculty. I really thought that
Pacho captured all my hopes for Wesleyan in his powerful statement. This is
Jim’s first commencement as chair of the Wesleyan board of trustees, and we
particularly welcome him to this platform.
Second, let me point out that today’s commencement coincides with the 175th
anniversary of Wesleyan’s charter, which was granted on May 26, 1831, so
this year we celebrate our septaquintaquinquecentennial.
In this anniversary year we will study Wesleyan history with renewed
attention. It is a history that goes back to the early years of the
Republic. It is a history of consistent educational purpose and of
successful renewal to meet changing times. It is a history both of privilege
and of commitment to social good.
In recent decades we have broadened our commitment to access and to racial
equality, recognizing that these are still uphill battles in America. It is
a great honor to be able, in just few minutes, to “yield back the balance of
my time” to a person who has kept the reality of racism in America before us
throughout his scholarly and personal life.
Let me just conclude with a word to the class of 2006. You represent over
700 individual scholarly and personal outcomes—accomplishments of
imagination, inspiration, perspiration, obsession, focus, sportsmanship,
passion and intellect. At the same time, your engagement with each other’s
points of view and backgrounds, has allowed you to think and rethink who you
are and who you want to be. Our small global university nurtures an
environment in which encounters with each other, between disciplines and
points of view, let us learn from each other.
You care a lot about other people, and you have shown that you will be part
of the solutions. I know this because of your responses to Katrina, to the
Indian Ocean tsunami, to the genocide in Darfur, and to your Middletown
neighbors. Where existing institutions seem not to be getting the job done,
you have created new not-for-profit organizations to foster everything form
micro-credit in Nepal to nonpartisan debate on global issues in America.
There’s something special and powerful about a Wesleyan education. You have
contributed mightily to it. I am confident that you embody Wesleyan’s
strengths and its commitments. Keep up the great work. Stay in touch as we
turn the corner toward our bicentennial. We will miss you very much.
Congratulations to you, the class of 2006.